As financial advisors, we were made for this crisis. Our profession is suited to go through tough times with our clients and help them learn, adjust and prepare for the next major event. The 2008-09 financial crisis helped form the recommendations I’m using today to adjust to this market and virus.
Life insurance, annuities and human advice are built for times of stress. I’ve been telling my clients for 30 years that I am not paid for the market increases; anyone can do that. I tell them they are paying my fee for the hard times like today. I lose sleep so that my clients don’t have to. Financial advisors are the only class of advice that will truly help people without charging a fee, during the time we are needed the most. Be very proud of that!
2008 and 2009 were difficult years because we had a prolonged period of negative news and market actions. People were losing their jobs. Businesses were closing. The government was changing the rules by the day, buying out companies and issuing new regulations. Even banks were on the edge of bankruptcy. Today is a very different situation.
While the fear is real, the timeframe is so much shorter and different. Look back to what you were thinking just six weeks ago — record markets with a growing economy, your vacation this summer, hitting your MDRT goals by June. All of this changed in just six weeks.
The 2008 great recession started to become real in late 2007, hit rock bottom in March of 2009 and didn’t recover until somewhere in 2011. It was a grueling period during which there was little positive relief, but we grew our clients base mainly through our clients sharing our material and our perspective on life. Stay positive and use historical perspective.
The following are examples I have used and have been telling clients, staff, family and the many other advisors I mentor. It is also how we grew exponentially during that 2008–11 timeframe and increased our client base substantially. It is how you can grow yours as well.
1) Clients don’t expect you to have all the answers but do expect you to listen to their fears in times like this. Offer vetted and correct information from reliable resources to help them get a historical perspective on what is happening now. Share ideas from your company that are not sales oriented but will help them make informed decisions. Put their interest and cash flow first. This may mean delaying a sale, but it may mean gaining a long-term client. They will judge you in the future based upon how you help them now, so do it now.
2) Gain a historical perspective quickly. Read up on past downturns and limit your reading to fact-based websites.
3) Read John Maxwell’s “The 5 Levels of Leadership,” and apply the five levels to your current practice. Try reading the book and substituting “employee” with “client.” (An MDRT shoutout to 13-year MDRT member William Spencer, CFP, AIF, of Sudbury, Massachusetts, for this nugget of gold!) Our clients are looking to us for leadership. Those who lead will grow. Those who let the media and the markets lead their practice will lose business.
4) Surround yourself with thought leaders now. Find a group of people who can help you grow. My study group has been meeting for over 20 years. We have grown from base MDRT levels advisors to Top of the Table many times over because we share everything.
5) Communicate, communicate, communicate. Our clients and their employees are scared because we are experiencing uncharted times. We made regular, weekly market and economy calls in 2008 to all of our major clients and good prospects. We didn’t offer to sell anything, just advice and information. We also made these calls over the last 12 years in good times and bad. We can’t control the markets, the economy, the pandemic or any of the thousands of things that come up. We can control how much we genuinely care for our clients and their families. Even your most successful client is scared and could use someone calming to share their concerns and for someone to listen. Be that person, even if you are as frightened as they are.
6) Gather data. As you call around to clients, and I highly recommend you contact your best prospects, ask questions about how they are being impacted. Assemble this data and try to help others with what you hear. You have to retain confidentiality, but you can help others with simple ideas gathered from these calls.
7) Retain the faith. This virus pandemic is unlike other financial crises since it has an expiration date. We don’t know if it’s two weeks or two months, but it will eventually end just like every other virus. And here is the best part, we become stronger as a people because it happened. We were made for this! Be safe, be strong, be a leader.
This article originally appeared in the MDRT Academy, MDRT’s sister association for advisors trying to reach MDRT-level production. Visit the MDRT Academy for more information.
Brian Heckert, of Nashville, Illinois, served as MDRT President in 2016. He has been an MDRT member since 1989 and is a Top of the Table qualifier.